It only gets worse from here.
The first violation letters under the Copyright Alert System have been sent out by AT&T, according to a post on the TorrentFreak blog. That’s apparently the first of the six strikes allowed under the program, which has been adopted by major telephone and cable companies, in collaboration with music and movie companies, to fight piracy.
You get strike each time a major ISP receives a complaint about you downloading pirated videos or music. Or anything else a shyster with time on his hands decides he doesn’t like. Each strike results in an increasingly hostile response from the Center for Copyright Information, which runs what it calls a “progressive educational system” on behalf of the big ISPs.
Strike one, it seems, gets you a blandly threatening warning from AT&T…
Through the Copyright Alert Program, users are given an opportunity to understand and change behavior that may be resulting in Copyright Alerts. However, if they receive multiple Copyright Alerts, they may encounter corrective action — or mitigation measures — which may limit or inhibit Internet access.
No action will be taken at this point and we’ll let you know when mitigation measures are pending, should any be necessary. At that point, if you wish, you may request an Independent Review which provides an opportunity to challenge this or any other Copyright Alert before any mitigation measure is implemented. (Be sure to preserve any records or information that could be used to show that the activity was non-infringing.)
That’s right, be sure you can prove you’re innocent, because AT&T is assuming you’re guilty.
As the strikes pile up, ISPs plan to gradually interfere with the quality of your Internet service, and could eventually cut it off completely.
Still to be determined is how this progressive educational system will impact casual Internet providers, like businesses that offer WiFi hotspots. The danger is that big ISPs will abuse the six strikes program in order to force hotspot operators to buy expensive service plans with terms of service that allow public access.
You’re gonna have to answer to the Coca-Cola company.
What we’ve seen over the past week might be news, but it’s not new. Telecoms and information service providers are in an ever tightening squeeze, as public and private interests use congressional influence to access customer information for their own ends.
It’s still not clear just how enthusiastically Google, Facebook, Verizon, AT&T and others have cooperated with federal spying efforts. So far, when companies have commented, it’s been along the lines of “we’re only doing what we’re required by law to do, and nothing more.”
In that sense, it’s no different than the cooperation telecoms companies are required to give intellectual property owners under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. And they don’t seem too upset at having to share customer information. In fact, they’ve figured out how to use the law to their own advantage too.
Copyright holders are far more brazen about throwing their congressionally granted weight around than the government agencies in the news lately. Of course, the fear caused by a letter from Warner Brothers demanding twenty bucks is a few orders of magnitude less than the terror of an IRS audit or an FBI investigation.
But small encroachments on personal choice and privacy add up, as lobbyists focus their attention and largesse on a relative handful of political decision makers.
Whether it’s entertainment company lawyers or CIA drone pilots that threaten, the power to access information we’ve placed in service provider hands has come from our elected representatives. They’re doing it with the consent of the governed. If you don’t like it, withdraw your consent the next time you vote.
Toll barrier coming down on free range WiFi.
Free public WiFi access might be an unintended casualty of the imminent onslaught of the Copyright Alert System, otherwise known as the Six Strikes rule. I say “might” because I’m not completely sure that the damage will be unintentional. There’s no doubt there will be damage.
This joint effort by major U.S. ISPs and the recording and movie industry associations is a monitoring program that watches Internet traffic for illegal downloading activity. When it’s spotted, the person or – it now appears – business paying for the access line involved will be at the tender mercies of a “progressive educational system” run by an umbrella organization called the Center for Copyright Information.
The more education required, the stiffer the lesson becomes. It starts with a warning and proceeds to temporary bandwidth throttling. Ultimately, it could lead to an account being shut off.
Businesses, non-profits or public institutions that offer free public WiFi access could face a double whammy. There’s the direct problem of someone logging on and downloading pirated material. Preventing that is beyond the capability of most hotspot operators. So the warnings and throttling will come.
The real slam happens when a casual hotspot provider tries to protest.
“Oh, you say it wasn’t your fault because someone used your public WiFi connection? Well, we can fix that. Your terms of service prohibit sharing your bandwidth, you know. So just shut down that WiFi and everything will be fine. We’ll turn your Internet back on as soon as you do.”
That’s the scenario facing Verizon customers, according to an article in Ars Technica. I can’t imagine other telcos and cable companies behaving any better.
The only ray of hope is that the cumulative inconveniences and annoyances will surely result in enough public anger to make ISPs back off. Or inspire regulators to step in. Wouldn’t it be better to act in a civilized manner in the first place?
We can hope.